Food Matters

This Thursday, January 15, Powell’s Books on Burnside will be hosting Mark Bittman for a talk and book signing at 7:30 pm, co-sponsored by Edible Portland. While he’s best known for his Minimalist column in the New York Times and for the encyclopedic breadth of his How to Cook Everything books, Bittman will be in town to discuss the focus of his newest book: the future of how we produce and consume our food. A review of his book, entitled Food Matters, on cheekily describes it as “applied Pollan.” If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food, much of the material will be familiary, but Bittman offers more practical advice and recipes. Plus, he’s disarmingly no-nonsense.

Bittman perfectly cuts to the heart of the tricky position of food in this country; either food is panderingly populist (frozen dinners and processed foods) or aloofly elitist (rare, alluring ingredients and esoteric techniques). Much like Pollan, Bittman longs for a time when food was just food and when everyone was a “locavore,” because there simply wasn’t an alternative. In Bittman’s appraisal, just advocating for organic, local, or vegetarian eating is too limited in its scope; for a true reform of our food, we need to consider social systems, equity, traditions and sustainability. Sounds a lot like “Good, clean, and fair,” eh?

For a sense of Bittman’s message (and his dry irony), watch this video of his presentation at a 2007 conference:

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